View Full Version : Hot chow at the front from a robot???

Joseph P Carey
10-08-05, 11:43 AM
The pentagon is currently running a race in the Mojave Desert for unmanned vehicles. The Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, made the course hard and doubled the taxpayer-funded prize to spur innovation and development of remote control-free robots that could be used in the battlefield.

The unmanned vehicles, ranging from a military Humvee to a behemoth six-wheel truck, must use their computer brains and sensing devices to follow a programmed route and avoid hitting obstacles.

Early Saturday, teams were given a CD-ROM with GPS coordinates that chart the exact route. The race, which starts and ends in the casino town of Primm, spans the Mojave Desert on the Nevada side.

Vehicles have to drive on rough, winding desert roads and dry lakebeds filled with overhanging brush and man-made obstacles. The machines also must traverse a narrow 1.3-mile mountain pass with a steep drop-off and go through three tunnels designed to knock out their GPS signals.

The robots will bolt from the starting gate at staggered times followed by a chase car. Vehicles must average 15 to 20 mph to finish in time.

To qualify, vehicles competed in a weeklong trial at the California Speedway outside of Los Angeles where they had to zip through a 2.5-mile bumpy track littered with hay bales, traffic cones and junk cars.

This year's field was more competitive. Even before Saturday's race, many teams tested their vehicles in parts of the Southwest desert under racelike conditions including some that practiced on last year's course from Barstow, Calif., to Primm.

The vehicles were tricked out with the latest sensors, lasers, cameras and radar that feed information to several onboard computers. This, in turn, helps vehicles make intelligent decisions such as distinguishing a dangerous boulder from a tumbling tumbleweed and calculating whether a chasm is too deep to cross.

To ensure safety, a judge in the chase vehicle could pause a robot during the race, stopping the 10-hour clock without penalty.

The judge also could press a kill switch if the robot was headed toward danger, ending its chances of winning.

The so-called Grand Challenge race is part of the Pentagon's effort to cut the risk of casualties by fulfilling a congressional mandate to have a third of all military ground vehicles unmanned by 2015.

The military currently has a small fleet of autonomous ground vehicles stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the machines are remotely controlled by a soldier who is usually riding in the same convoy. The Pentagon wants to eliminate the human factor and use self-thinking robotic vehicles to ferry supplies in war zones.

It has always been my contention that more wings and whistles you put on these things, the more problems you will have.

What happens when the unit has moved, and the enemy is in the old positions? Or, the enemy can get the codes to the Autoconvoy? It will be a long time in waiting for Bullets and Beans at the front. What next? Robot Marines? And, when the batteries go dead, who will be left to think for themselves?

Even with all the bombing we did in the Gulf War and OIF with all these marvelous weapons of the future, it still took the man on the ground with a rifle in his hand to finish the job that the miracle weapons missed,

What say you on this?

10-08-05, 09:05 PM
I read about last year's race and saw the pics of it. It was a bit of a joke to see what stopped some of these machines. Do I agree with the concept? Not really for some of the same reasons that you point out.

I do disagree with your assessment of the smart bomb idea. The man on the ground with the rifle in his hand is to occupy after the bombing is done. The trouble is, we got sucked into the enemies style of fighting in Iraq, (just as in Nam) instead of using our technology.